Characterization of Odysseus Based on Book Six and Nine

Essay by fourtwentyHigh School, 10th gradeB+, October 2007

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Odysseus is a hero that not only has physical skill, but also an intelligent brain as it comes out in the books six and nine of Homer’s Odyssey.

Odysseus is shrewd, cautious, and extremely self-confident. He often introduces himself in a powerful and effective way. For example when in book nine, “I am Laërtês’ son, Odysseus. Men hold me formidable for guile in peace and war: this fame has gone abroad to the sky’s rim.” (Book Nine, lines 20-24). This may put the reader or even character of the story fear him. But he has also another side of his which is softer. When he first addresses Nausicaa on the island of Scheria, for instance, his smooth, comforting approach quickly wins her trust. She immediately realizes from Odysseus’ cultured speech that he is of noble birth when she says, “Stranger, there is no quirk or evil in you that I can see.

You know Zeus metes out fortune to good and bad men as it pleases him. Hardship he sent to you, and you must bear it.” (Book Six, lines 201-204). She sympathizes with him and provides him with assistance.

His determination and quick thinking enable him to escape many dangers. For example, when he and his crew were trapped in Polyphemus’ cave. In order to save the situation, Odysseus would have to call on his sneakiness again and he devised a plan. That evening, he held Polyphemus in conversation and persuaded the Cyclops to consume so much wine that he fell into a drunken sleep. While the Cyclops slept, he and his men ran a pole into his only eye. Odysseus had told the dull-witted giant that his name was ‘Nobody’. Polyphemus started screaming and when other Cyclopes asked what is wrong he kept on roaring, “Nohbdy, Nohbdy’s tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me!” (Book Nine, lines 444). Odysseus’s curious lie about his name seems nonsense at first but adds a clever and humorous twist to the necessity of keeping the other Cyclopes from rescuing Polyphemus. Odysseus’s final exposure of his identity to Polyphemus ultimately proves foolish, and because it symbolizes a lack of foresight, stands in stark contrast to the slyness caution that Odysseus displays in his plan to escape from the cave.